Bending the Curve toward Reasoned Action

With something as complex the all-encompassing climate response negotiations between nearly 200 governments, it is often easier to talk about the arc of the process than to trace every detail. The energy committed to reasoned action can be drained away, if too much weight is given to doubt and naysaying. So the work here is in part about building up the level of energy committed to reasoned action. We have a chance to bend the curve toward reasoned action and make sure no efficiency value or constructive outcome is left unattempted.

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In plenary sessions, in the review of draft text, in bilateral negotiations, finance is the hot topic: how to build up and deploy funding for mitigation, adaptation, and damage relief, and how to judge which projects in which countries should get it. What is not central to the negotiations, but has been consistently repeated in connection to the value of climate finance, is how pricing carbon will build economic efficiency and make it possible to better predict the value of climate-smart investments.

Advocates for a price on carbon include not only Citizens’ Climate Lobby (advocating for Fee and Dividend and the Pathway to Paris principles) and the NRDC and IETA (advocating for cap and trade or ETS plans). At COP20, we also find representatives of national and subnational governemnts that are actively pricing carbon and looking for ways to harmonize or actively link up their plans.

The World Bank and the IMF are also advocating for a price on carbon. Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate, called for “a globally networked carbon market” or a mosaic of carbon pricing strategies. She said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wants every country to commit to pricing carbon in Paris next year. She also thanked Citizens’ Climate Lobby for its efforts and said our citizen engagement will be important for getting the right policies in place.

julie-luke.jpgIn a discussion yesterday evening with Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister for Australia, it was clear that there is an interest in Australia for smart, targeted climate response that builds value over time. Earlier in the day, she announced a commitment of $200 million to the Green Climate Fund, and the Australian delegation was successful in introducing language relating to health impacts into the text of the draft agreement.

I was able to meet with her, because our volunteers had worked hard to build relationships and to make clear that their perspective, as citizens, should be part of the discussion. With so many points of view competing for a hearing in Lima, it is clear that citizen engagement provides a genuine stabilizing effect to thinking about smart, viable, economy-building policy. More of that will build political will and get us more ambitious commitments, including smart, fiscally conservative carbon pricing, like our Fee and Dividend plan, or something that follows the Pathway to Paris principles.

The UNFCCC Conference of Parties process has become an ongoing global process of coordinated response to a crisis that affects most of what any society attempts to do. This means it overlaps with the human rights and sustainable development agendas, and other aspects of the always active diplomatic process. Whatever phrasing or legal agreements come out of Lima or Paris, the process of coordinated climate response is now part of the political process for every country, and provides the best opportunity for robust long-term in reliable, sustainable prosperity.

maria-vanderhoeven.jpgThis morning, as I awaited the privilege of addressing the talented students of the Colegio Roosevelt, here in Lima, I listened to my fellow speaker, Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, say that a price on carbon is a vital part of the policy environment we need to secure a sustainable future economy. Fellow advocates of the economic wisdom of carbon pricing noted today that this is becoming the talk of the COP. It’s not a focus of the negotiations, but it is filtering into virtually every serious discussion about how to efficiently dedicate and deploy serious and sustainable financial resources.

There is palpable and increasing interest in achieving reasoned climate disruption response policies that 1) effectively mitigate risk and cost, and 2) allow for the continued expansion of prosperity for all people. The moment is within reach where political rivals will come together to support reasoned and effective climate action that reduces cost and risk and also builds stronger, more long-lived streams of economic prosperity.

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About Joseph Robertson

Joseph is Global Strategy Director for the non-partisan non-profit Citizens' Climate Lobby. He coordinates the building of CCL's citizen engagement groups on 5 continents, leads the Citizens' Climate Engagement Network and represents CCL in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, UNFCCC negotiations, and other UN processes. He is a member of the Executive Board of the UN-linked NGO Committee on Sustainable Development-NY and of the Policy and Strategy Group for the World We Want. He is also the founder of Geoversiv.net and the Geoversiv Foundation and the lead strategist supporting the high-level climate dialogue series Accelerating Progress, Advancing Innovation.